MARK I: an astronomer's lifetime experiment

Fecha y hora
30 Nov 2021 - 09:30 Europe/London

Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos

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Mark I is a part of the origin of the IAC, operating in the El Teide Observatory since 1975, in three different locations until reaching the Solar Pyramid "van der Raay" in 1987. Every day, weather permitting, it has been providing precise measurements of the radial velocity of our star. It began to perform continuous daily observations from July 1984 and, until December 2020, 10169 out of 13408 possible days (76%) useful data has been gathered. Designed, updated, maintained and operated by the Helioseismology team at the IAC and the University of Birmingham (UK), more than 100 people, from TOTs and weekend fellows to professors, have contributed to this endeavour. It was a true pioneer, key in the birth and development of Helioseismology and Astroseismology as branches of modern Astronomy.


Mark I is a resonant scattering spectrophotometer that measures the radial velocity of integral sunlight using the KI-769.9 nm spectral line. It has been a pioneer and reference for calibration of other instruments: MarkII, IRIS, Cannon, Stellar, Space, BiSON, GOLF, which have also worked in different ground-based observatories and in space missions such as SoHO (1995-).


Its precision, in a single measurement of the solar radial velocity, is less than 1 m/s, and the one achieved so far is less than 1 cm/s at frequencies around 0.1 mHz (gravity modes zone) and less than 1 mm/s at 3 mHz (acoustic modes zone). It measured for the first time the spectrum of solar acoustic modes (from 1.8 to 4.2 mHz) of small degree ( <= 3): their frequencies, amplitudes and lifetimes, their rotational splitting; also its variations with the cycle of solar activity. He has explored gravity modes, measured the spectrum's background, and determined the acoustic cut-off frequency in the solar photosphere. All this has led to numerous discoveries that have been published in around 40 doctoral theses at different universities and more than 600 papers in international journals and books. These works have been already cited around 10,000 times in scientific literature.


In this talk I will briefly review its history throughout more than 45 years, an entire academic life, and I will raise some suggestions on its scientific use from now on.